How To Choose a Criminal Defence Lawyer
If you’ve been charged with a criminal offence, it is important to seek the services of an experienced criminal defence lawyer immediately. Even crimes that seem minor can result in a criminal record that can affect your future employment and freedoms for years or even a lifetime.
Further, the legal system can be a cumbersome and complicated process to navigate. Many are in a position where they are seeking the services of a criminal defence lawyer for the first time and have no experience in how to choose one that is right for their situation. There are many questions that you should ask yourself and the lawyer when making your choice.
Does the lawyer actually practice criminal law?
Some lawyers will take on cases where they have little to no experience even if they do practice in criminal law. Sometimes cases develop as they go along and become more complicated than the lawyer initially expected. A good lawyer will come to recognize this and ask for help from colleagues or refer the case to other lawyers. Ask the lawyer if they have specific experience related to the charges you are facing.
Criminal law is complex and constantly evolving. A lawyer who has experience in driving under the influence (DUI) cases may not have experience in theft or more serious charges. Also, having handled dozens if not hundreds of criminal cases similar to yours, an experienced criminal lawyer will know the approach to take with your particular case.
Does the lawyer have experience with the local courts and jurisdiction?
Not only should the firm have the required experience practicing criminal defence law, it should also be experienced in practicing law in the court where your case is pending.
In Ontario, each court has unique procedures and staff. It is important that your lawyer is familiar with the local court and court procedures, as well as the judges and Crown prosecutors.
What is the reputation and credentials of the lawyer?
Different lawyers have different reputations amongst the legal community including other lawyers and judges.
In the process of researching a prospective criminal defence lawyer, it is important to learn about the lawyer’s experience, awards, certification, similar case results, and other credentials.
Do you have a good impression of the lawyer when you meet with them?
An initial meeting will allow for you to judge the lawyer’s client care, responsiveness, and transparency. Remember that you are the one doing the hiring so it is important that you feel at ease speaking honestly with your lawyer. Your criminal defence lawyer will be acting as your advocate so it is important that you feel assured that they are doing everything in their power to protect your rights.
What is the fee structure?
Reputable defence lawyers do not want confusion about their billing. Instead, they’re going to explain in simple terms how they bill and give you an idea of what you can expect regarding their fees for services and the total cost of your defence.
Do they Have Courtroom Confidence?
One important factor in choosing a criminal defence lawyer is if they can project confidence in court. Criminal trials move fast. Sometimes, your lawyer has only moments to make an objection or decision that could affect the outcome of a case. Being able to act and think quickly and dynamically is often based on their experience and knowledge of the law.
Do they listen to you?
Ultimately, your criminal charge impacts you the most and the defence is on your behalf. Your attorney should guide the specific methods of mounting your defence like filing court motions and what witnesses to call, but some of the big decisions will be up to you. It will be up to you to decide to plead guilty or go to trial. Your lawyer should listen closely to the details of your case, your preferences, and provide a strategic plan for your case.
It is important to have a few questions ready to ask during your initial consultation with a criminal defence lawyer in order to be sure that he/she is the right lawyer for your case. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. Now is not the time to be hesitant.
Here are a few questions to consider asking during your initial consultation:
- What is your success rate in trial and achieving bail?
- What types of defences can we consider for my case?
- What hours of the day are you available to discuss my case?
- How long do you anticipate it will be before my matter is resolved?
- What is the best and worst case scenario of my criminal charges?
Rishma Gupta is focused solely on criminal defence. She graduated from the University of Toronto and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Honors, with a double major in Criminology and Society, Ethics and Law. She went to one of the top law schools in the United Kingdom, University of Leicester Law School and earned her LL.B. She participated in the Innocence Project. She started her practice of law in Toronto.
Her clients referred to her as the ‘bail queen’ with a success rate for bails of 99% and 95% for trials.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence, Rishma Gupta will vigorously defend you. She has represented individuals charged with various criminal offences in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and throughout Ontario.